- Transitioning curriculum and instruction
Formative assessment is a process used by teachers and students during instruction to improve instructional outcomes. As such, teachers play a critical role in its effective application. Assessment instruments themselves don’t constitute formative assessment; however, what role do formalized tools, such as item banks and computer-based administration and reporting systems, have in formative assessment? This session will provide a healthy debate—from a variety of stakeholder perspectives—of the issues surrounding this timely topic.
The notion of formative assessment as an out-of-the-box solution has alienated many practitioners as they believe it underemphasizes the critical role of the teacher in accomplishing the process successfully. This session will take the bull by horns and provide a healthy debate on whether formalized tools have a place in the classroom-based formative assessment process, and if so, what their place is. The session will be structured as follows:
Two presenters will take a “con” position. They will provide a brief introduction to formative assessment and establish a common ground for what it is and what it isn’t. They will also provide the definition of formative assessment established by the Formative Assessment for Students and Teachers (FAST) SCASS and discuss some of the statewide efforts to support formative assessment within districts and schools. These presenters will emphasis the central role that teachers and students play in the formative assessment process, and the risks of relying on third-party tools to accomplish it.
Two other presenters will take a “pro” position. They will also set the stage for the session by describing the types of formalized tools that might support formative assessment process (e.g. item banks; social, administrative, scoring, and reporting tools), as well as potential roles they might play (e.g, scaffolding novice teachers, creating communities of practice, supporting diverse learners). In addition, they will discuss the role that testing companies can play in supporting formative assessment—not just as provider of tools but in supporting effective practice through research around learning progressions which can in turn inform the formative work. This will draw on a current research effort to develop formative assessment that draws on learning progressions and goes beyond providing assessment items and includes teacher/instructional supports. This work, however, must be take into consideration the broader roles that states, districts, schools, and teachers must play in supporting effective formative assessment.
The discussant understands the critical role that teachers play in the formative assessment process, and will provide commentary on both the pros and cons of using formalized tools in the formative assessment process, and address considerations such as the ramifications of overreliance on such tools with inadequate training and professional development. The discussant is free to serve as a “wild card” in the debate.
Finally, one of the presenters will “bookend” the session by providing closing commentary and thoughts for future efforts, including research.
Audience members will be encouraged to actively participate in this session. Attending teachers will in particular be called on to share their experience and feedback. This will help support the primary goal of this session: to establish an ongoing dialog amongst the various stakeholders—teachers, trainers, district- and state-level decision-makers, researchers, and vendors—as a means to improve the types of supports that can be provided teachers to effectively apply formative assessment processes in the classroom.